He scored arguably the most iconic goal in the national side’s history. But there was a lot more to Archie Gemmill’s storied career than that marvellous solo effort against the Netherlands during the ultimately doomed 1978 World Cup campaign.
The little midfielder admits he had up and downs with Scotland but his club career yielded a string of successes at clubs which punched above their weight, a little like the man himself.
Gemmill was a key member of three sides who were champions of England in the 1970s, and can also boast League Cup and European Cup winners’ medals on his CV.
His achievements mean he is a worthy winner of the inaugural Scottish Power Scottish Football Writers’ Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Gemmill was in Glasgow on Sunday night to collect the award, a few weeks short of the 40th anniversary of that goal against the Dutch which had the Scots, as the BBC’s David Coleman memorably put it, in dreamland.
Ally MacLeod’s side needed a three-goal win to progress to the last eight of the World Cup and Gemmill’s mazy run and clipped finish put Scotland 3-1 up against the side who would go on to reach the final. But it wasn’t to last. Johnny Rep thundered one in from 35 yards minutes later and the Dutch scraped through with a 3-2 defeat.
“Any recognition you get is always nice so it’s really pleasing to pick up this award,” Gemmill said yesterday. “Whenever a World Cup comes around people want to ask about the goal and there’s a bit of interest. It was fantastic at the time, even if it didn’t help us a great deal in the tournament itself.
“But over the years, it’s given a few people some joy – and a bit of hope, I suppose for the future. It was a special moment for me. I’d like to think it’ll be remembered long after I’m gone. I’m not the type to watch it. I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw the goal.
“But even people down in Derby [where he lives], still ask me about the goal. And the odd time I come back up to Scotland, it’s all anyone wants to talk about – nothing else.”
Gemmill is a revered figure in Derby, and in Nottingham too. He twice won the league with the former, in 1972 and 1975, and then helped Forest clinch the title in 1978. Like the late Brian Clough, his manager in ’72 and ’78, Gemmill is one of the few personalities who is held in great esteem by both these East Midlands rivals. It says much for the man that he can bridge the divide.